In a major reversal, the Justice Department told a federal judge in Maryland on Wednesday that it has been “instructed to examine whether there is a path forward consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision, that would allow us to include the citizenship question on the census.”
The shift comes after President Donald Trump tweeted earlier on Wednesday that “we are absolutely moving forward, as we must” on the citizenship question, despite statements Tuesday from both his Department of Justice and his secretary of commerce that the administration was printing the census without the question.
Jody Hunt, the assistant attorney general for the Civil Division, told the judge that if they find a viable path, they plan to go to the Supreme Court for “instructions … to simplify and expedite the remaining litigation and provide clarity to the process going forward.”
The discussions and confusion at the White House came a day after a Justice Department Attorney, Kate Bailey, notified plaintiffs challenging the question via email that she could “confirm that the decision has been made to print the 2020 Decennial Census questionnaire without a citizenship question, and that the printer has been instructed to begin the printing process.”
The Department of Justice later confirmed the question would not be on the census. And Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross issued a statement saying “The Census Bureau has started the process of printing the decennial questionnaires without the question” even though he said he disagreed with the Supreme Court ruling.